I recently saw the documentary, Hockeytown. This very raw film, follows two high school hockey teams in Northern Minnesota during the 2019-2020 season. Two rivals on very separate paths: Eveleth is the iconic Iron Range town, home of the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame. Both the town and the hockey team are long past their prime years. Hermantown is on the rise, gaining both population and championships.
All the pressure, pride, excitement and disappointment in playing Minnesota’s state sport at the high school level is laid out bare in this very well done documentary.
Texas has football; Indiana has basketball; Minnesota has hockey.
After what was described as a successful inauguration of the Ironman Triathlon in Alaska, the governing body has cancelled plans to return to Alaska’s capital city. By all accounts Juneau put on a decent event, and athletes enjoyed the setting, but logistics were a problem. Bikes, in particular, were more difficult to get to Juneau than anticipated, although with the practice, I expect Alaska Airlines would be able to cut down on those issues, considering how many coolers of salmon and moose racks they transport with ease.
Admittedly, getting to Alaska isn’t exactly a cheap ticket, and once you get here, warm waters to swim in are pretty hard to come by, but I feel for the city of Juneau, because I know the effort Alaskan communities put in, to get an event like the Ironman.
I won’t even get started on Alaska’s attempt to get these two:
Unlike the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest will be anything but normal for 2022. Unlike the All-Alaska Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the Yukon Quest is an international race running between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, YT. This year, there will be no border crossing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The usual 1000 mile race will be separated into four smaller races for 2022. On Saturday, February 5, the YQ350 will start with teams running from Circle to Fairbanks and back to Circle. Also getting its start on Saturday is the YQ200, which is a one-way run from Fairbanks to Circle.
February 19 will see two races start in Whitehorse. The YQ100, which runs from Whitehorse to Braeburn; and the YQ300, which is a roundtrip between Whitehorse and Mandanna Lake.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race will go back to a normal route in 2022, and finish in Nome for its 50th running. Last year, the race was a “there and back”, and did not venture into the historic gold rush city.
The Iditarod will require mushers to be vaccinated for the anniversary race. Even with the vaccination requirement, the usual checkpoint at Takotna, will not take place, as the community has decided not to host the checkpoint this year due to pandemic concerns.
It should be noted that the Iditarod race commemorates the 1925 “Great Race of Mercy”, when several teams of dogs and their mushers relayed the diphtheria serum to Nome to combat an epidemic.
The Iditarod is scheduled to start the first weekend of March.
With the Alaska Nanooks on their second consecutive week off, we dip into the archives for our hockey fix. I’m guessing this was the championship game of the 1936 Winter Carnival tournament. 1936 would have been the second annual winter carnival. Fairbanks won the game, although no score, or photog credit was given.
The first snowfall of the season welcomed Interior residents on Friday morning, and snow continued to fall throughout the day. Fairbanks received roughly 2.5″, while areas around us received quite a bit more.
The Little Brown Jug has already seen one pandemic, and on a field in Minneapolis, Michigan and Minnesota will fight for it once again in the midst of a second pandemic.
The teams were already rivals in 1903, when Fielding Yost, and his Michigan Wolverines, left behind the 25 cent crockery. The Gophers painted the jug brown, and wrote the final score on it. The next time the two teams met, they agreed that the jug would make a nice trophy. Minnesota and Michigan have been battling for the jug ever since.
There was an eight year gap when Michigan left the Big Ten Conference, but the two teams were scheduled to restart their rivalry in 1918. That game never happened.
Minnesota had its first case of influenza in late September 1918. Within three weeks, there were over 1500 cases reported. Businesses were shut down, and gatherings banned by October 9. Like today, there were mixed reactions to the precautions. The University of Minnesota did not reopen until October 23.*
Sports across the country dealt with the pandemic, just like today. Alabama and LSU did not have a season. The World Series was played early, and the Stanley Cup was called off after 5 games because Montreal could not field a healthy team.**
It wasn’t the pandemic that kept Michigan from playing Minnesota in 1918, but the war effort. The Army had instituted a travel ban, so teams had to keep their games close to campus.
The two rivals did meet again in 1919. The Gophers won 34-7, with 1919 being the only year Yost finished with a losing record (3-4).
The Big Ten returns on Saturday, which many consider a good thing, and just as many probably do not. In any event, we have been here before, even though it predates the vast majority of us. We did get through it.
The very same 25 cent Jug will be up for grabs for the 104th time on Saturday in Minneapolis.
A musher and dog team take the Chena River out of Fairbanks
The Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race started on Saturday morning. Fifteen teams left Fairbanks, with the goal of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory in 9 days, give or take.
It was a rather chilly morning to be hanging out on the Chena River to cheer the teams on their way, but several hundred people turned out to do just that. It was -25F when I left the cabin, and it must have been -30 down on the river ice. Everyone, including the dogs, were bundled up.
The 1000 mile race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse first started in 1984. A 1983 bull-session in the Bull’s Eye Saloon in Fairbanks, led to the race’s creation. Twenty-six teams left Fairbanks that first year. The winner, Sonny Linder, made it to Whitehorse in just over 12 days.
The Quest follows the historic gold rush routes between the Yukon and Alaska’s Interior, traveling frozen rivers and crossing four mountain ranges. Dawson City, YT is the half-way point. In even years, the race starts in Fairbanks, and in odd years the race starts in Whitehorse.
There are ten checkpoints and four dog drops, where dogs can be dropped off, but not replaced. Sleds can not be replaced without a penalty. The record run happened in 2010, when Hans Gatt finished in 9 days, 26 minutes. The slowest time happened in 1988, when Ty Halvorson completed the race in 20 days, 8 hours, 29 minutes.